BURLINGTON, Ky. (WCPO) — Joshua Ward, an Ohio, man accused of murder in the 2018 shooting deaths of a Kentucky, woman and her 9-year-old son, was found guilty by a Boone County jury Wednesday evening.
Boone County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Joshua Ward in 2018 and charged him with two counts of murder after his ex-girlfriend, Kelli Kramer, and her son, Aiden, were found shot to death in their Northern Kentucky home.
The jury also returned with a punishment recommendation of life in prison without the possibility of parole. A judge will formally sentence Ward on Oct. 19.
“That’s what we were going for,” said Marilyn Kramer, Kelli’s mother, after the verdict. “That’s what we’re hoping for. Aiden didn’t get the chance to live his life. We’re here to see if we could get justice. We did.”
The family said they’ve been holding out hope for the moment they got answers and justice.
“This is the best we’ve felt in 3.5 years,” said John Kramer, Kelli’s father. “It’s still a sad time that our daughter and grandson are gone. We move on with this.”
Boone County prosecutors called it a crime of passion; the defense argued the defendant was wrongly accused and got caught up in a web of sex, drugs and overlooked suspects.
Prosecutors said Kramer was one of several women the married Ward dated simultaneously. Ward’s plan — he admitted Tuesday under oath — had involved having multiple women move into his home and form a polyamorous family. Ward and Kramer broke up in mid-2017 after, Ward claims, he found she was also seeing other people and may have been involved in prostitution.
“They have a strange relationship where he’s her ‘daddy,’ and she’s the little girl,” said defense attorney Daniel Schubert.
Schubert built Ward’s defense around the possibility that other suspects should be considered in the woman and her son’s death, claiming there is very little physical evidence against his client and pointing to what he said was Kramer’s history of drug use.
“You can’t just make up evidence to fill an empty space. It flies in the face of presumption of innocence,” Schubert said during Wednesday’s closing arguments, suggesting that Kramer’s death was the result of a “drug deal gone wrong” and didn’t involve Ward at all.
Ward denied on the stand that the breakup had created a motive for him to kill Kramer or her son. He claimed never to have contacted her afterward and said he was “devastated” when he learned of her and Aiden’s deaths.
But Commonwealth’s Attorney Leanne Beck said Ward began stalking Kramer after their breakup and pointed to shell casings found in a Brown County yard — where Ward had been known to go target shooting — that forensics showed matched those found at the crime scene.
“This was not a drug deal gone bad; this was not a crime of opportunity,” she said. “This was something more.”
Beck went on to argue that a “drug deal gone wrong” wouldn’t be enough to motivate killing a 9-year-old boy.
“The one pure thing Kelli did in this world was Aiden,” Beck said to the jury. “He was 9 when he was murdered… (a) light dimmed too early.”
This story was originally published September 1, 2021, by WCPO in Cincinnati, an E.W. Scripps Company.